I’ve spent months trying every flavor of gum, in hopes of getting rid of your love that remains in
my mouth. I am finally down to my last flavor, and I hope the freshness of the spearmint gum
wipes the stench clean from my cavity. I carefully unwrapped the silver foil and placed the green
thin strip on my mouth. For a minute, the cool sensation wrapped around my tongue, and it felt
like a child sticking out its tongue in the snow. In an instant, the flavor was gone, and the horrid
tastebuds plagued my tongue.
It used to be our favorite flavor.
The one you kept in the back seat of your car; we’d slip it on our tongues after sharing a blunt. I
remember how hard you laughed that one time I inhaled way too much smoke. You told me I
look like a fish out of the water, and my lungs burned from the smoke and you. You always
knew how to make a girl’s insides burn, and you finally lit the final match.
So, I spat it out.
Left on the pavement to ruin someone else’s day. The blackbird that roamed around the gas
pumps for trash, landed next to me on the sidewalk. It walked in circles around the gum, before
sticking its beak in. The gum stretched from the concrete and connected to the top of the bird’s
beak. The more the little bird pulled on the gum, the more it stretched out. The bird gave up the
fight after a person slammed their door shut.
“Can I get 20 dollars on pump nine?”
The twenty curled around his crooked fingers; his palm suffocating Andrew Jackson’s face as he
pointed the money at me. I wipe the dust from the back of my khakis and released oxygen back
to the seventh president.
It had been months since a man held the door open for me. I should have known it was over
between us when you suddenly stopped opening them for me. I thought you were finally giving
me the independence I always yelled about, but you were just practicing learning how to live
The man wandered towards the back of the store, as I placed the crinkled twenty-dollar bill into
the register. He placed a bottle of Budweiser, and the pack of gum you were obsessed with it. I
rang up the bottle of beer first. You never drunk beer; you swore you never would after your
brother’s death. That gum, you chewed it every day. At nights when we laid in bed together,
pieces of it would still be stuck on the back of your ear. You’d pop it back into your mouth as if
it still held the same taste; knowing you were chewing on something flavorless.
I ran the pack of gum over the scanner quickly and placed it in the bag with the beer.
“That’ll be 4.45.”
He opened the can of beer as he walked towards the door. The vibrant green pack of gum stuck
out from the back of the man’s pants. When he left, I hoped his boot stepped in what was left of
the gum on the sidewalk.
Chew, Don’t Swallow
The gas station fired me. Weeks before my manager gave me the news, I overheard him talking
to my coworker about my ‘bad’ attitude. Gasoline wasn’t the only thing that stunk at that gas
My roommate kept telling me about an open position at his job. I didn’t know too much about
his career, but since I’ve stopped working, he never left his room.
I rarely left my room after you broke up with me, and after my manager sent the text to not
return. I wanted to text you. You’d come and pick me up, and we’d smoke a blunt, and I’d cry
into your arms.
The room smelt exactly like it would after one of our hotboxing sessions. You always smelt like
smoke and spearmint. The scent clung to your body as I did.
In the living room, my roommate was sitting on the couch, blowing smoke out of the window.
He dapped the blunt down onto the astray and place it behind his ear. I took the lighter from his
lap and relit the blunt.
“I didn’t know you smoke.” he said taking the blunt from my hands.
I hadn’t until I met you. It was the way you calmed yourself down after you realized your brother
was never waking up. His not being here made you want to be somewhere else too. The night
after the funeral you were so close to packing your bags and hitting the road. As much as you
wanted to leave, you knew you couldn’t do it. Not because your mother would die from
heartbreak or that your father’s addiction would flare up again; it was because you wanted to
You wanted to live in a twisted world where young men got injected from their front seats and
splatted like bird shit on a car windshield.
I hadn’t touched a blunt since the last time we met. The sun hid behind the clouds that morning,
and it felt it would never come out.
You told me you enlisted in the army.
You curly-haired boy I never picture you to be the bald fade type.
If I would have known that your leaving would ruin me, I never would’ve told you to go for it.
But you were always so supportive of my dreams, so I let you go.
My roommate slapped my back as I choked on my phlegm. It’d been months since I smoke my
last blunt, and it had been months since I last had a man’s touch.
I wished it was you whose throat I was sticking my entire tongue down. You who caressed my
legs and rubbed circles on my thighs. You that laid on top of my body on the sofa and burrow
your head in the crook of my neck.
For a moment it was you. His brown eyes were suddenly blue, and my body warmed up to those
gas flames glares. My hand worked its way up to your ear. When I didn’t feel the sticky gum on
the backside of your ear, and in my insides instead; I knew you were gone.
I’ve been sleeping with my roommate and working alongside him for the past four weeks. He
has me packaging tiny pills that remind me of the ones your doctor prescribed to you after you
stayed in bed for weeks. Your mother used to place the pill on your tongue and stand in the
corner of the room until you swallowed it. The doctor said it was supposed to make you happy,
but it only made you forget.
Four pills in my hand, three in the bag, and one in the mouth.
In the beginning, I told my roommate I’ll never do it. He only smirked; like he knew that I’d slip
I remember when your parents caught us smoking weed in your car. You heard that it was a good
way to relieve stress, and you would do anything to stop taking those pills. We would wait until
your father drunk himself to sleep, and your mother crawled herself to the bedroom alone for the
tenth time that month. Your parents didn’t know that you stop taking your pills and were selfmedicating yourself. They were only happy to see the whites of your teeth again.
That night you picked me up from my shift at the gas station. You stopped at Taco Bell before
picking me up, lips blue from sipping on a Baja blast on the way here. You didn’t touch any of
your tacos; you always waited until after you smoked to eat. You swore the first bite tasted
heavenly, and it made you feel closer to your brother.
You put the car into park once we were in the driveway. Your parent’s car was gone. They
started going out again. Your family therapist recommended that everyone return to their normal
habits. You retired going to those art classes, but your parents always believed you were there.
You had the buds in your lap, placing them one by one on the rolling paper. With some trial and
error, you mastered rolling a blunt. Your hands perfected everything they touched.
You always let me light the blunt. Each time the flame would burn the skin on my thumb. My
hands weren’t as crafty as yours, but you liked seeing me try. We’d recline the seats back, you’d
crank up the radio, and pass the blunt back and forth.
I don’t remember the conversation we had from the night. I only remember seeing the sadness
drain from your eyes and light up like a Christmas tree. The first time I saw your eyes recharge I
was so high, I confused you for a demon.
That night the evil spirit ran through your veins.
During the chorus of a Frank Ocean song your dad banged on the driver’s window so hard, I
thought it would crack.
You jumped out of the car like superman. Your mother tried to hold you back, but there was no
use. You flung your hands into the air and landed a punch onto your dad’s face after he called
you an addict. He pinned you down on the front lawn, and your mom screamed for him to get off
of you. You screamed, and I heard all of the pain you tried to cover up with pills and weed.
By the time I came down from my high your mother had me strapped in the front seat of her
SUV. Your mother and I both cried. I cried because I couldn’t tell if I was having a bad trip, or if
you really did punch a dent into your father’s head. I can’t tell you why she cried, she had many
The next time I saw you, you were back on your medicine and your room didn’t have a door. We
would lay in the bed together, and your mother would peep her head in occasionally. Some days
we’d watch movies on your laptop; things that didn’t require you to lift your head from your
pillow. I remember the day I stood in the kitchen waiting for the popcorn to be done. Your father
came in to fix a glass of orange juice. When he gulped down the juice, I saw it. The refrigerator
door covered his body, but his head was tilted enough for me to see the dent on his head. When I
got back in bed, your dad passed down the hall. For a few seconds, he stared into the room but
continued down the hall.
During those days I never thought you would leave that bed. Is it selfish to say, I rather you in
that damn room than wherever the hell you are now?
Savoring the Flavor
My roommate has been sleeping with another girl. I hear their moans through the thin walls. He
stopped knocking on my door for sex, and only when he needed me to make a quick run. I hear
him curse when his phone rings. He mumbles something to the girl and comes knocking on my
door. He tells me that a client never received an order from me. I know that he is lying. He was
always running behind on dropping of his half. It didn’t matter, I’ll do anything to stop hearing
the girl in his bedroom fake moans.
Your parents gave me your car when you left. They wanted me to wait and pick it up after they
had it clean, but I protested against it. I told them I’d get it done myself, but it’s been almost two
years and it remains the same. A picture of us still on the dashboard, packets of taco bell sauce in
the cup holder, and random paint-stained clothes in the backseat. One piece of gum remains in
the pack. I made sure to keep it in the glove department in case you decided to come back.
After you left, I would join your parents for dinner every Sunday. We’d talk about you over
meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and your mother would read the letters you sent. Your mother
would always stop and rip the section where you’d talk to me. I’d hang the strips of paper on the
The last Sunday I ate dinner with your parents, they told me you had written me a letter. She
handed me the letter and served the dessert. Your mother wanted me to open it up right there and
read it at the table, but I placed it in my pocket for later. When I got in the car, I ripped the
envelope open. The paper took forever to unfold from the tiny square. Each line on the page was
filled with your loopy handwriting.
My parents tell me you’ve started having family dinners with them on Sundays. Did Mom’s
cooking get any better or are you stomaching it like you used to? Remember that one time my
mom baked that apple pie for Thanksgiving, and you were so afraid to throw it away you ate the
entire slice. I don’t know how you managed to keep that down- my brother was impressed that
you didn’t throw up after the first bite.
Enough about my mother, I heard a little something about you. Be honest did you rob a bank, or
did you actually save enough money for college? Kidding, hey I am proud of you kid. Look at us
making our dreams a reality.
You know after my brother’s death I couldn’t imagine my future. It was like everything I knew
or thought I knew was taken away from me. Everything felt so temporary then, but you. You
were always so permanent in my life, even when I didn’t want you to. I know our relationship
hasn’t been the best, but Ravan Millard you’re the best woman a man could have.
Tomorrow I am being deployed to another country. All I can think about is you. Baby, I love you
so much, but it is time for you to chase after your dreams. You’ve taken care of me for so long, it
is time for you to do what you want. Whether that it includes being with my parents every
Sunday or going off to that college you always wanted to go to.
Don’t let me be the reason you stay behind.
I haven’t seen your parents since that night. Your mother called so much, I had to block her
number. I know it killed them that they were losing another person in their life, but I was
processing my pain.
Living in this world without you.
A cat jumped off the porch as my headlights lit up the entire front side of the house. I turned the
brightness of my lights down, as the woman made her way down the steps. Her gown was so
sheer it exposed the top portion of her chest. She counted her pills, as I counted over the
wrinkled bills, she gave me. She poured the pills back in, one by one, leaving one to pop in her
At the red light, my phone vibrated in the cupholder. The words Unknown Caller flashed across
the screen. I hit the decline button, before pulling off underneath the green light. The phone
vibrated again. This time I answered.
“Hello?” I said the audio was muffled, and I could hear my voice echo through the other line. My
finger was about to hit the button until I heard your mother’s voice.
“He’s gone, Ravan, He’s gone. My baby!”
Your mother screamed those words over and over on the phone for two minutes, until your father
came in to apologize and hang up the phone.
I straighten the picture of us on the dashboard and reached into the glove department. The pack
of gum rested on top of pages of your old sketches. The single gum rested in the middle of the
pack. I carefully unwrapped the gum from the white wrapper and placed it on my tongue.
It didn’t taste like you or spearmint.
Stale. Flavorless. Nothing.
Tyrenisha James is approaching her final year as an undergraduate at the Northwestern State University, where she has taken several semesters of creative writing. She is an active writer on campus, serving as a Reporter at her university’s newspaper, The Current Sauce. In her spare time, she loves to binge-watch old teen dramas, her favorite being Degrassi: The Next Generation.